Saturday, May 15, 2010

Guilin -- Southern China

Since we last wrote in the blog, we left China & Tibet, had a brief pit stop in Nepal (brief because we seem to cause political unrest everywhere we go) and are now in India. Here's a bit of our adventures in Southern China in a region known as Guilin. We hadn't planned to go to Guilin at all, but our innkeeper in Beijing convinced us that the landscape was so beautiful that we had to see it.

Rafting down the Yulong River

Hiking in the beautiful karst mountains

These pictures don't really do the mountains justice, because we didn't have a blue sky to pose them against.

Our week in Guilin was wonderful -- we met a great family that were the Innkeepers at our guesthouse in Yangshou. They were inspirational in terms of the amount of travel that they had done with their kids (hi Michael and Nadine!) All the kids got along great, and nearly buried themselves in a little tunnel.

Highlights included river rafting, caving and traditional Chinese fans that Wendy and the kids made.

And, not to be forgotten, I also got a little schooling in how to tell time, military style.... 20:15 doesn't mean 10:15 pm, no matter how forcefully you try to explain to the airlines that it does. This also gave us the opportunity to sample the beds in a complete dump of an airport hotel, as we awaited our rescheduled (and more expensive) flight the next morning. (We also got to try sleeping 3 of us in each twin bed, along with innumerable bedbugs.)


The next day: Xi'an, China and the Terracotta Warriors.

Back in the 1970s, a farmer was digging a well on his land, when, to his chagrin, he hit pottery rather than water. It turns out that the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang, wanted to ensure that he would have a powerful army in the afterlife. So he had 8,000 life-sized terracotta warriors built and buried. The emperor was a charming guy -- he had tens of thousands of "unpaid laborers" build his tomb, and then had them killed to maintain the secret of what they had built. The warriors were amazing to see.

After seeing the warriors, we spent an amazing evening in the Muslim quarter of Xi'an, sampling street food and seeing a traditional Chinese puppet show.

And then we were off and waiting for our train to Tibet!

And this is how we spent the next 37 hours on the train:

(And here's a lovely shot of Wendy in the throes of altitude sickness -- we found out quickly that altitude sickness _is_ something to be taken very seriously. The train even pumped in oxygen as we crossed 5,000+ meter peaks -- but it wasn't enough for Wendy!)